Mountain View’s many smoke shops and tobacco sellers have caught the eye of the state health department.
Shayla Compton, a program coordinator with the Alaska Tobacco Control Network, paid a visit to the Mountain View Community Council meeting Monday night to talk about the state’s concerns — from youth tobacco use and vaping to the recent legalization of marijuana.
Compton said she was born and raised in Mountain View. After spending a few years outside, she came back to Anchorage this spring and took a drive through her old neighborhood. The number of tobacco retailers shocked her. There are two gas stations, three smoke shops, two liquor stores and several grocers that sell tobacco products; all along the same mile of road.
“The issue that we’re having here, on top of tobacco, is now marijuana has been legalized,” said Compton, who distributed maps showing the sheer density of smoke shops in Mountain View. “Some of the locations you see on this very map have already indicated, as tobacco retailers, that they have an interest in possibly distributing or selling marijuana as well. So it creates a problem.”
At least one neighborhood smoke shop aims to break into the weed business. But the state has yet to craft the regulations governing legal marijuana sales in Alaska, and licenses won’t be issued until sometime next year.
The uncertainty didn’t stop Mountain View residents from raising their own questions Monday night: Will there be a limit on the number of marijuana retailers allowed in a neighborhood? Will pot shops be allowed near schools, churches or community centers? The ballot initiative passed by Alaska voters last fall promised to regulate marijuana like alcohol, a concerning comparison for a neighborhood with it’s own booze-related struggles.
On Monday, the Mountain View Community Council passed a resolution asking the Anchorage Assembly to hold a public hearing on the conditional use permits and liquor licenses for Mountain View’s two Brown Jug stores, which sit only a few blocks apart. Some residents believe relocating the stores or imposing restrictions could help curb the neighborhood’s problem with public drunkenness. But it’s an ongoing effort. Now, council members are grappling with a new fear: Will legal marijuana bring the same kind of trouble for the neighborhood?